Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Yoga: It’s not all about poses and flexibility

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(Yoga room/ Daily Collegian)

(Yoga room/ Daily Collegian)

“Finally,” I think as I roll out my mat and take a seat. The time has come to unwind, relax and decompress after another long day.

There are 49 other yoga mats belonging to people I do not know rolled out onto the hard wood floor around me. I do not know their names, who they are or what their story is. I do not know if this is their first yoga class ever or if they come here regularly, and they do not know anything about me. But I do know this: We are all here for the same reason. We are all here for ourselves.

Each of us is here at the University of Massachusetts’ Recreation Center to cultivate something positive and take a break from busy daily routines. The room full of 50 strangers is a place of love. It is a place filled with acceptance and light and good energy; a place filled with deep breaths, movements, stretches and the practice of letting go.

Every Wednesday at 5:45 p.m. in Room 215 of the Recreation Center, Laura Berglass teaches power vinyasa yoga.

Power vinyasa yoga is a style of yoga that focuses on the smooth flow of movement between poses. The key to this practice is to synchronize each transition to the breath, with an inhale and an exhale as you flow between poses. This class is not just about stretching, but it instead focuses on building strength and balance, so be prepared to work up a sweat.

Berglass’ class typically begins with a few gentle sequences to warm up the body, such as Cat-Cow. She incorporates a series of Sun Salutations, which include a transition from Plank to Chaturanga and then to Upward-Facing Dog, using breath as an anchor. There may be some core strengthening exercises and balancing poses which are meant to challenge the participants, but modifications are offered for all levels and for every pose.

Berglass, a senior at UMass, has been doing yoga since she was in high school. She got certified during her sophomore year at the University during a two-week intensive certification workshop retreat in Vermont that was put on by the Health Yoga Life studio of Boston.

Berglass said she enjoys teaching power vinyasa yoga specifically because she likes to combine strength building with relaxation. She enjoys the fact that Vinyasa combines working out and sweating with meditation and stretching. Berglass encourages everyone to come to her class, especially if they have never tried yoga before.

“There is no such thing as embarrassment in a yoga class,” Berglass said for those who may be intimidated to take the first step.

Jacklyn Giampa, a sophomore who started taking yoga classes last year, said she finds the classes “very empowering.” She now strives to take yoga classes at least three times a week, which usually includes Berglass’s class on Wednesdays.

Giampa said she’s found she feels less anxious “especially about schoolwork” after doing yoga, adding, “Physical meditation is so genuine. It’s not made up. You leave class and you feel free and liberated.”

Personally, I didn’t always feel this way about yoga. I used to wonder how the instructors could twist themselves into pretzels and claim it felt good. I used to wonder, “How could breathing in a yoga class be different from breathing in everyday life? Don’t we just breathe to survive?”

One day, however, I built up enough courage to take a class. It wasn’t easy at first, and it is a lot of hard work for your body, but everyone has to start somewhere and the more I went to these classes, the more I realized this: yoga is for everyone.

Yoga is for anyone who wants to do something healthy for themselves or for who wants to handle the stress of being a full-time student. Yoga is for anyone, no matter what you look like, how old you are, how flexible you are or how much experience you have.

Emily Medrek can be reached at [email protected]

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